Wellbeing SIG

Wellbeing (formerly Welfare of Anaesthetists) Special Interest Group

For wellbeing resources click here



Dear colleague,

On Tuesday 17 March 2020, I was part of a training SIM in preparation for intubation and management of COVID-19 patients. I thought it was pretty routine.... until I passed a close colleague on his way to intubate one of the real COVID patients in our ICU. It felt a bit like watching the first soldier going over the top.

It may be stating the bleeding obvious, but all predictions point to a major crisis in our lives for the foreseeable future

Many in the general community will become ill. Some will die. There will likely be business failures, job losses and financial suffering.

We in medicine will see our friends and family, and our colleagues experiencing this. And in anaesthesia we will be in the front line, along with our ED and ICU colleagues, in caring directly with these patients. We are at increased risk of contracting the virus with all its consequences, of finding ourselves isolated from our families, working outside our comfort zones, and experiencing concern for our own safety and for our co-workers.

What can we do?


  • Be informed. Keep up to date about the virus, transmission and pathogenesis. Know your hospital protocols and practice them.
  • Be aware that as time goes on, you and your colleagues will become fatigued, stressed and at risk of error. Have compassion for yourself and others when stress becomes overt.
  • Take care of one another. Ask about each other’s wellbeing and concerns, about family and friends, about plans unfulfilled. Your interest in others will make a huge difference to their wellbeing and the team.
  • Maintain a sense of humour. Any sort of humour boosts morale
  • Be aware of your supports and talk to them, be they family, colleagues, your department wellbeing officer or counsellors. Talk to your mentor(s) now and frequently. Keeping your worries to yourself is a sure way to see them fester and become irrational.


Life may not be the same when this is all over, whether in regards to the health of our community or financially. But at present we have a job to do, and focusing on what’s in front of us rather than potential future scenarios, will help us to manage. And hopefully in the future we will look back at this episode in our lives and recognise that we did well under difficult circumstances.

As always, if anything in the above has caused you mental health issues, please contact your general practitioner or alternatively, if you are in Australia or New Zealand:

Best wishes,

Greg Downey
Chair Wellbeing SIG



At the recent Welfare of Anaesthetists Special Interest Group AGM held on July 27, a new name for the SIG was ratified and will now be known as the Wellbeing Special Interest Group. The new name reflects the important community of practice of the Wellbeing SIG. It is also in line with the World Medical Association (WMA) amendment to the Declaration of Geneva which acknowledges the importance of doctor wellbeing. The declaration was recently amended to include “I will attend to my own health, wellbeing, and abilities in order to provide care of the highest standard.” Previously, the declaration had not included the need for doctors to take care of our own health and wellbeing in order to take better care of our patients. This brings a positive and pro-active approach from our leaders in world health. It sets the scene for wellbeing as a positive goal in professional life and personal behaviour rather than a welfare “rescue strategy”. In view of this encouraging lead, the members of the newly named Wellbeing SIG voted to change the name.


The Wellbeing SIG has been meeting on a regular basis since August 1995. The group was formed to raise awareness of the many personal and professional issues which can adversely affect the physical and emotional well-being of anaesthetists and intensivists at all stages of their careers. In 1998 the group became an official special interest group (SIG), with ANZCA providing the secretariat. The group is an informative, educative and referral group; it has no therapeutic role.



The aims of the Wellbeing SIG is to promote the personal and psychological well-being of anaesthetists and pain medicine practitioners and to heighten awareness of welfare issues in anaesthetists.


It achieves these aims by:

  • Educating anaesthetists and trainees in the care of their personal and psychological health, and that of their colleagues, fostering a climate of care, openness and support.
  • Identifying issues causing stress in anaesthetists’ lives.
  • Establishing guidelines for management of welfare-related problems (see Resources).
  • Expanding continuing medical education activities to include education on issues such as lifestyle, mental health, relationships, stress management and personal development, by holding sessions at state and national meetings, one-day seminars, and regional seminars for trainees and trainers.
  • Developing support strategies within and outside the profession.
  • Establishing a website, a resource brochure, a resource network and a reading list.
  • Facilitating access to, and liaison with existing helping agencies (for example, Doctors' Health Advisory Services - DHAS).
  • Advertising welfare activities and support schemes (in ASA and NZSA newsletters, ANZCA Bulletin).
  • Liaising with ANZCA, ASA, NZSA and other organisations.
  • Researching and collecting data.



The Wellbeing SIG was formed to promote the concept of physician health, both physical and mental. It is our intention to make physician health issues mainstream and regarded as integral to healthy doctor-patient, doctor-family and doctor-workplace relationships. Our activities include, (but are not limited to): Education (trainees as well as specialists), liaison with other professional bodies, guidance (but not direct treatment or referral) for appropriate management of physician health problems.



Research and data on welfare issues in Australian/New Zealand anaesthetists. Wide acceptance by professional bodies and health administrations of the importance of welfare issues. Development of workplace practices that support anaesthetists and keep them well.



Plenary sessions at major continuing medical education meetings.
Free-standing SIG meetings.
Annual state-based meetings on welfare and professional issues for trainees.
Health and welfare surveys.



2020 Combined Communication, Education, Welfare, and Leadership and Management SIG Meeting

For further information on the postponement of the meeting, please click here.

The meeting has been postponed to July, 2021 at the Riley Crystalbrook, Cairns.  Further information will be available in the near future.


2019 Combined Communication, Education, Welfare, and Leadership and Management SIG Meeting
"Developing leaders with 20:20 vision", convened by the Leadership and Management SIG.
Held July 26-28, Novotel Sydney Manly Pacific, NSW. 
Please visit the meeting website to view the presentation slides.

2018 Combined Communication, Education, Welfare and Leadership and Management SIG Meeting
"Turning potential into performance", convened by the Medical Education SIG.
Held September 21-23, Byron at Byron Resort and Spa, Byron Bay.   
Please visit the meeting website to view the presentation slides.

2017 Combined Communication, Education, Welfare and Leadership and Management SIG Meeting
"Confident competence – creating and maintaining our abilities", convened by the Welfare SIG.
Held October 27-29, Novotel Twin Waters, Sunshine Coast, Queensland.
Please visit the meeting website to view the presentation slides.


Please see below for the latest and past newsletters

August 2018

December 2017

December 2016

February 2016

July 2015

January 2015

August 2014

January 2014

July 2013 


Please visit the ANZCA Wellbeing SIG page to view the Resource Documents.


Resource Documents

If you would like to create or request a specific resource document, please click here to view the resource document submission guidelines.


Doctor's Health Advisory Service

If you are concerned about yourself or a colleague, contact the "hot-line" nearest to you



+61 2 9437 6552


+61 2 6288 6008


+61 7 3833 4352


+61 3 9349 3504


+61 8 9321 3098


+61 3 6223 2047


+61 8 8273 4111


(04) 471 2654 (NZ only)




Welcome to the first ANZCA Welfare SIG ‘article of the “month”’. The topic of substance abuse amongst our colleagues has frequently and recently been discussed by the SIG.  This article sought to establish how common the problem is, who it affects and what is being done about it in our region.  The survey has recently been repeated and the results will be published soon.  Until then, let us review where we were in 2005.  Also keep a look out for our ‘article of the month’ in the ANZCA Bulletin.


Fry, RA. Substance Abuse by Anaesthetists in Australia and New Zealand.  Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, 2005; 33: 248-255


Recognising Warning Signs

Are you enthusiastic for long, difficult or complicated cases?  Do you volunteer to work extra shifts or to do extra or late cases on a list? Are you over-anxious to give breaks to your colleagues?  Did you know that these are some of the warning signs of drug abuse, according the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI)? These attributes are also those which are generally valued by anaesthetists, which highlights how difficult it can be to recognise substance misuse amongst our colleagues.  


For more warning signs and for strategies on what to do when you suspect someone may have a substance abuse problem, I encourage you to read the Welfare of Anaesthetists Special Interest Group resource document RD 20 Substance Abuse 2013.  This and other resource documents can be found on the ANZCA website here.


Recommendations for future articles of the month are welcome.  Please contact Events  


All articles below are "produced by the Australian Society of Anaesthetists and reproduced with permission"


Caring for you
Returning to work after illness
Returning to work after maternity leave
The isolated anaesthetist
The role of the welfare officer
Trainee welfare
Transition to retirement
Wellness: A professional obligation


If you would like to join the Wellbeing SIG, please download an application form or contact events on +61 3 9510 6299.



The executive of the Wellbeing SIG meets regularly, usually via teleconference to discuss matters related to the group's area of interest.


Dr Greg Downey   
Dr Robert Fry
Member               Dr Anna HallettQld
Dr Tim Porter
Dr Kushlani Stevenson
Dr Tracey Tay NSW
Dr Heman Tse ACT
Dr Jo Sinclair
Dr Divya Sharma   WA
MemberDr Wendy FalloonTas
ASA representative 
Dr Antonio Grossi   
NZSA representative Dr Emma Patrick NZ 
RANZCP representativeDr Shirley Prager Vic
Trainee representative Dr Claire Maxwell Qld 



  • Articles in ANZCA Bulletin, ASA newsletters and other publications.
  • Doctors’ health advisory services numbers in ANZCA Bulletin and ASA newsletter.
  • Liaison with ANZCA, ASA, NZSA, doctors health advisory services, regional medical boards.